At various junctures during the 2020 campaign an attack ad would pop online that had observers on Twitter buzzing about how devastating for Donald Trump it would be. Except, more often than not, the ads weren’t effective, at least not for the nominal point of the election: persuading on-the-fence voters to back Joe Biden.
That’s the conclusion the Democratic Party’s top super PAC reached after doing analytical research into a handful of spots that went viral on Twitter.
The PAC, Priorities USA, spent a good chunk of the cycle testing the effectiveness of ads, some 500 in all. And, along the way, they decided to conduct an experiment that could have potentially saved them tons of money. They took five ads produced by a fellow occupant in the Super PAC domain—the Lincoln Project—and attempted to measure their persuasiveness among persuadable swing state voters; i.e. the ability of an ad to move Trump voters towards Joe Biden. A control group saw no ad at all. Five different treatment groups, each made up of 683 respondents, saw one of the five ads. Afterwards they were asked the same post-treatment questions measuring the likelihood that they would vote and who they would vote for.